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Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

— Michael Pollan, author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
In the newsletter this week, we’ve got a plant-based prescription, lifting weights to change your shape, and an icy sore muscle solution. Read on...

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s how Michael Pollan summarizes the 330 pages of 'In Defense of Food', his 2009 bestseller that raised awareness about the dangers of processed food and benefits of “real food” that doesn’t come in a box or bag.

Despite the “mostly plants” injunction, Pollan is no vegetarian—he writes: “I enjoy eating meat, meat is nutritious food, and I believe there are ways to eat meat that are in keeping with my environmental and ethical values.”

In addition to eating food your great-grandmother would recognize, Pollan recommends behavioural tricks to control eating, like “do all your eating at a table” and “try not to eat alone”. 

For Pollan, the personal ties to the political: his recent essay for the New York Review of Books discussed how the pandemic exposed problems with the US “industrial food chain”. His prescription? Re-order the food production system to promote quality rather than efficiency.

Hoping your shopping cart has mostly plants (but maybe a ribeye steak too), Katherine & Linda
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Caroline Girvan

“Lifting weights really does change your shape,” says Caroline Girvan. An Irish fitness personality, she’s a certified personal trainer and mom of two.

In a Q&A posted on her channel, Caroline encourages followers to amp up the intensity of their workouts: “If you do 40 seconds and you think that wasn’t so bad, next time try jumping higher, landing lower, holding it a little bit deeper, or even completing more reps within the time period... Every HIIT session should be challenging!”

Check out Girvan’s 10-week fitness guide (PDF) with plenty of tips on nutritious eating and how to plan a fitness regimen.

Try this: Caroline’s specialty is tough hour-long workouts that will leave you (happily) sweating and exhausted. Her 1-hour Full Body Dumbbell workout alternates 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest.

Prefer bodyweight only? Girvan’s hour-long, no-equipment Hardcore HIIT Full Body Workout alternates 20 minutes of work with 20 seconds of rest, with four reps of thirty different exercises for a ton of variety.
We loved this workout—it has both explosive cardio and agility work that will leave you sore tomorrow.
Is the “toning” myth preventing you from getting stronger?
The late 90s produced a lot of bad ideas, from jelly shoes to home perms, but one of the worst was the non-science-based concept of “toning”. Magazines preached that women should lift light weights for many reps, to “lengthen” and “tone” muscles and prevent “bulking up”. 

Well, now it’s the 2020s and we know muscles just don’t work that way. Your muscle is attached to your bone at either end—nothing can change its length. And there’s no anatomical difference between “toning” a muscle and building it. 

As professional athlete and fitness coach Heather Farmer explains in Oxygen Magazine: “Using heavy weights builds up your muscle tissue, giving you shape and the lean, strong look you’re after. That means working as low as two- to three-rep sets and lifting 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max on your final sets of your major exercises.” 

Without lifting to failure six days a week and/or altering your body’s hormonal profile (a.k.a. steroid use), there’s just no way a woman can build bulky muscles. So don’t be afraid to lift heavier weights.

When should you increase the weight? If you’re performing 8-12 rep sets and having no problem completing all the reps in every set, that's a signal to up the weight. Personal trainer Caroline Juster advises in SELF Magazine: “Don't kill yourself to add weight every week… Never sacrifice technique to lift more weight.”
Explainer: Do ice baths really soothe muscle soreness?
When should you use an ice bath for recovery after running or other exercise? The theory behind ice baths is that exposure to cold helps to combat the microtrauma (small tears) in muscle fibers and resultant soreness caused by intense or repetitive exercise. 

If you want to try cold water immersion, here’s a step-by-step guide from running blogger RunLadyLike. Step one: buy several pounds of ice! 

However, before you make like an iceberg, you should know there’s controversy around the benefits, with some scientists insisting they’re no help and you should just get some sleep instead. Have you tried ice baths?

Did they work for you? Reply and let us know your experience!
 Need a portable lunch? Try these healthy and cute mason jar meal ideas, including Lentil Salad with Tahini Dressing (Genomic Kitchen)

 The ten best sports bras for running (Greatist)

 A study of more than a thousand young adults uncovered three pillars of mental health: quality sleep, regular exercise, and eating fruits and vegetables (Science Daily)

 This Brain Boosting Seaweed Salad with tofu and pickled ginger is vitamin-rich and ultra-nutritious (Solluna)

 Could fitness trackers be sabotaging your health? The dangerous allure of the quantified self (Elemental)
Thanks for reading, Fit Girls! We’ll return to your inbox next week with more inspiration and knowledge. Got a tip for us or opinion to share? Email us—we love your feedback. Enjoyed this issue? Please forward to a friend—your referrals help us grow!
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